Maker education and the maker movement is all about project-based or problem-based learning. It relies on hands-on, collaborative experiences where projects focus on solving real problems in order to demonstrate learning.
Maker education originated from the maker movement in 2005 and gained traction in large part due to Make magazine and the popularity of events like Maker Faires. This movement brought together DIY-ers, hobbyists, and tinkerers from all different backgrounds who wanted to improve the world around them through collaboration and experimentation.
This emphasis on discovery through creating is at the heart of maker education—and the maker education movement.
The maker movement has paved the way for more hands-on, discovery-based learning in today’s schools. Unlike traditional teaching methods, maker education encourages students to learn, not just by watching, but by doing.
Tech has played a big role in the growth of the maker movement and its impact in education. Take, for instance, the emergence of makerspaces. Makerspaces provide hands-on learning environments where students can go to use creative tools to make things. In a makerspace, you might find things such as 3D printers and laser cutters, audio visual equipment, or computing software like Raspberry Pi and Arduino, two open source software platforms.
Builds soft skills.
Maker education promotes problem-solving, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking, all important skills in today’s job market.
When students learn in a hands-on environment, they’re more likely to remember what they’ve learned.
Students are encouraged to explore open-ended creation, become creators and tinkerers, test out different solutions, and demonstrate new pathways to innovation.
Encourages meaningful collaboration.
Maker education helps learners understand how to use the STEAM curriculum (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics) where projects are often done in teams. Working collaboratively, students learn how to engage in thoughtful dialogue, delegate tasks, compromise, and listen.
Unlike grading methods used in a traditional teaching environment, maker education has no system in place for how to assess maker-oriented projects and activities. Some educators might attempt to put a grade to the content knowledge developed or technical skills learned, while others might focus on the process of learning instead of the finished product. All of this can cause resistance from parents and educators who prefer a traditional grading system.
As maker education gains traction, it’s important for current and aspiring teachers to know how to create a “maker friendly” classroom. Setting up a makerspace gives your students a dedicated area to experiment, get hands-on, build, and invent as they engage in STEAM learning. Here are a few simple tips:
Create a Makerspace
- Choose an area that’s easily accessible for your students and won’t disrupt your daily routine.
- Consider sharing a makerspace with other teachers or classrooms.
- Use what you have—repurpose an unused room or even use the corner of a shared space, such as the library or a computer room.
- Collect materials and supplies via donations or ask local hardware stores if they have any extra inventory they want to unload.
- Establish rules and expectations with students regarding safety, cleaning, materials, usage, etc.
- Make-and-Takes: Make-and-take projects help students get excited for STEAM learning and give them something tangible to take home with them. These kinds of low tech activities use affordable supplies (cardboard, paper, tape, etc.) so that students can keep their finished projects.
- Free-Form Making: These are unstructured activities where students can work on projects that they’re passionate about. Free-form making allows students to stretch their creative boundaries without constraints.
- Design Challenges: These types of activities are a great way for students to use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems. Design challenges can include making catapults or creating devices for shooting rubber bands.
- Portfolio Projects: Incorporate time throughout the year for students to work on long-term maker projects that they can then present at the end of the year and work on their presentation skills.
If you’re considering a teaching career, it’s smart to start thinking about what kind of classroom environment you want to create. With an online teaching degree from WGU, you’ll be ready to enter the classroom with the latest knowledge and skills you need to succeed.